Category Archives: staff favorites

Picture Book Month

It’s Picture Book Month! Take a look through the Children’s Services department and you will see little notes throughout the picture book collection pointing out some of our favorite titles.

Nights at the Museum

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I’m not alone. This month marks 50 years since the book was published, and many people are writing tributes— including some new children’s books.

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Ban This Book: A Novel by Alan Gratz
“A fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy and soft-spoken, but don’t mess with her when it comes to her favorite book in the whole world. Amy Anne and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship.”

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One Mixed-Up Night by Catherine Newman
“Frankie and Walter aren’t really running away. Just like the kids in their favorite book, they are running to somewhere. Specifically, a massive furniture store. They’ve been obsessed with the Ikea catalog for years. So they make a plan, pack their backpacks, give their parents the sleepover switcheroo . . . and they’re in.”

As you can see by the big gold sticker on the cover, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler won the Newbery Medal. Mrs. Konigsburg also won a Newbery Honor for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth the same year. I’m not sure anyone else has managed to do that with two books in one year, and it’s even more impressive when you find out that these were the two books she wrote and illustrated! The book has also been turned into a movie under the title The Hideaways, which you can check out on DVD.

Two generals and a dog

Ms. Wendy encountered this ad while enjoying Fourth of July fireworks on TV, and shared it with the rest of the Children’s Services Department:

As librarians, we all enjoyed that the letter about the dog is in the Library of Congress! (Follow the link above and click on “original document” to see it.)

When we hear a good story, one of our first thoughts is usually to ask “Is there a children’s book about this?” In this case, it turns out that there is!

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George Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy
Recounts events in the life of George Washington which focus on his fondness for animals.

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books are turning 75 this year!  Here are some memories of Little Golden Books from different library staff:

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The Little Golden Book I remember best from my childhood is The Monster at the End of this Book (featuring Grover from Sesame Street).  What I loved about this book:

  • I loved Sesame Street
  • It’s the first thing I remember that broke the fourth wall
  • Like Mo Willem’s pigeon books, it puts the child in control

-Ms. Sarah

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I remember getting The Poky Little Puppy for my birthday. We did not have many books or toys and I remember carrying this book everywhere. It is still my most treasured picture book from childhood.

-Ms. Rupa

I am not as old as the Little Golden Books, but when I was a girl I had a number of them on the bookshelf in my room, and I read them again and again.

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We always had a garden in our backyard, so I treasured Two Little Gardeners by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd because it described the gardening year that I knew in loving detail. Gertrude Elliott’s illustrations provided even more detail, adding insects and birds, frogs, turtles, and little critters for the observant child to discover. One of my favorite pages was a cutaway view of the garden showing the baby beets, carrots, and potatoes growing underground surrounded by wormholes, rocks, and the roots of other plants.

The two gardening children watched the seedlings sprout. They watched the plants bloom and the bees pollinate. They hoed the weeds and watered “the rows…Till the dusty dirt was all dark and damp and wet.” When the plants were attacked by crows and animals, they added a scarecrow and a “raba-mole” to fend them off. And, oh, the results were splendid! “Day after day something was ripe and ready to pick.” Just like my family’s garden.

At the story’s end there was a great feast, a bountiful harvest of vegetables stored in bins and tubs of sand, and rows of jewel-like canned goods on the cellar shelves. A song on the last page summed it all up.

Hi Diddle diddle, We’re full as a fiddle

      Of things that come out of the ground.

      What we plant in the spring

      We eat in the fall

      And put up in jars

      And eat it all

      When the snow come falling down.

Time to buy some seed packets and go out to hoe!

-Ms. Wendy

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Between the years 1990 and 1999 I worked at Western Publishing Company during which time it was sold and renamed Golden Books Publishing in Racine, WI.  While I was there I worked in three different departments; Order Processing, the Wal-Mart Team and Special Markets.  After Western Publishing was sold the new owners built a new facility a few miles away in Sturtevant, WI.  It was beautiful, and printing and production was just a catwalk away from the business side of the company.  One could walk over and look down through large windows onto the floor where the printing, production and packaging was going on.  I have always loved reading and the opportunity to work for a company that published one of the most well-known children’s book brand, Little Golden Books, was a great privilege. Now as a cataloger I reminisce each time a Golden Book comes across my desk.  It’s exciting to be on the other side of the process, bringing the items into the library where Patrons can come in and enjoy these wonderfully created books.  Some of my favorite books are The Poky Little Puppy, Prayers for Children, The Sailor Dog, Where Do Kisses Come From, and all the ones that are illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.

-Ms. Penny S., who gets our new books ready for the shelves

For more on the history of Little Golden Books, check out this book in the adult collection:

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Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus

Beauty and the Beast and the Books

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Beauty and the Beast was a special Disney movie for me.  How could a future librarian not enjoy a story about a book collection bringing two unlikely characters together?

I’ve talked to a number of patrons in the past few days who are very excited about the new live action version of the movie starring Emma Watson.  Hermione is definitely a factor.  For those fans, I would like to bring a little-known DVD to your attention:

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Ballet Shoes was a BBC TV movie based on a book by the same name by Noel Streatfeild.  Three adopted sisters pursue careers in ballet, acting, and aviation.  The book was originally published in the 1930s, but remains a favorite and is still in print today.

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Beauty and the Beast also came out about the time that I discovered Robin McKinley, who writes wonderful fantasy novels with strong female characters.  Her book Beauty is an older title but still a great choice for an older kid or young teen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick pick: Cobweb Christmas

When I started working for Fountaindale in 1985, the department head had a party at her home. As I admired her tree, I noticed a spider on a web ornament and asked about it. She said it is a German tradition and told me about the book A Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo.
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The next Christmas, I received a spider on the web ornament as a gift. When my daughter left home, she asked for a spider on the web ornament. I could not find one, but asked the library staff to assist with my search. An elf found one and left it in my mailbox without a note about the cost or who the elf was. When my son left  home, he, too, asked for a spider on a web.
This time, the elves were with me as I found one in a Minocqua, WI Christmas shop. The spider and web now has a place on the side of the tree since my mother-in-law passed away almost 10 years ago. She requested this ornament be put at the back of the tree as she was afraid of spiders and this ornament gave her the creeps when she saw it!

Family outings: The Nutcracker

I never danced in The Nutcracker, but I love the music and I love this ballet.  My first memory if it is watching it on TV.  It was the night that Halley’s Comet passed overhead.  Unfortunately, we had a cloudy night and it was impossible to see the comet.  My parents found a performance of The Nutcracker on PBS and told me that if I was lucky, I might see the comet the next time around (in 2061).  Even without seeing the comet, I’ve had a few opportunities to see The Nutcracker live since then and enjoyed it every time.  Parents often ask us for books to introduce The Nutcracker before they take their children to a performance.  Here are a few suggestions:

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Bea in The Nutcracker by Rachel Isadora
Bea and her young classmates dress up in costumes and put on a performance of The Nutcracker.  This is one of Rachel Isadora’s picture books that showcases her background as a professional ballerina!

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Becoming a Ballerina: A Nutcracker Story by Lise Friedman; photographs by Mary Dowdle
Traces the daily experiences of a thirteen-year-old ballerina who is preparing to perform the lead role in the Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

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Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza; illustrated by Don Tate
Tells the story of how jazz composer and musician Duke Ellington, along with Billy Strayhorn, created his jazz composition based on Tchaikovsky’s famous Nutcracker Suite ballet.   This book comes with a recording of the suite on CD.

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The Nutcracker performed by the Bolshoi Ballet on DVD
If you want to bring home a recording of the ballet, this is a beautiful version.

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The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann; pictures by Maurice Sendak; translated by Ralph Manheim
Maurice Sendak (who wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are and who also designed sets for a performance of The Nutcracker) illustrates the story behind the ballet.

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The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
An abridged version of the story featuring beautiful paintings of ballet dancers.

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The Nutcracker retold by Stephanie Spinner; illustrated by Peter Malone
In this retelling of the original 1816 German story, Godfather Drosselmeier gives young Marie a nutcracker for Christmas, and she finds herself in a magical realm where she saves the nutcracker and sees him change into a handsome prince.  This picture book comes with a CD of the music from the ballet.

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The Nutcracker, music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
This child-friendly adaptation of the complete ballet score is given a beautiful retelling of the story by Jim Weiss.  You can find many other CDs in our collection that feature music from The Nutcracker and storytelling by Jim Weiss.

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The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton; illustrated by Cathy Gendron
An illustrated account of how “The Nutcracker” ballet became an American tradition traces the efforts of three vaudeville siblings who staged their own production in the early 1900s after being introduced to the ballet by Russian immigrants.